Engineers Without Borders returns from second trip to Africa

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State student chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB-PSU) recently returned from its second trip to Sierra Leone, Africa, where they continued their ongoing projects in the village of Baoma, located nearby to the coastal city of Freetown.

Five students, faculty adviser John Lamancusa and two professional mentors made this second trip to Africa over winter break. The group is working on two projects for the people of Baoma: a latrine for the children at the Covenant Preparatory School and a project to improve the quality of the village's water supply. The technical mentor for the latrine project is Rich Kercher, a project manager at Gannett Fleming, and the technical mentor for the water project is Mark Ralston of Converse Consultants.

"Since the club's partnership with Baoma, our primary goal has been to improve health and sanitation in their community," said EWB-PSU president Andrew Kreider, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering.

On the group's first trip to Sierra Leone in the summer of 2010, students gathered assessment data for the latrine project. Since then, however, the location of the school has moved.

"The owner of the school recently purchased his own land, so another assessment trip was necessary to survey the land, determine the future location of the latrine, and perform tests like a percolation test on the soil," said latrine project co-leader Beth Milligan, a junior civil engineering major.

But according to Milligan's fellow team leader, Kyle Palmeter, the school's new location offers some formidable challenges for EWB-PSU's latrine project team.

"The new property has water sources in close proximity and is on a very steep grade, and the soil is extremely rocky and hard to excavate," said Palmeter, a mechanical engineering major and also the EWB-PSU co-vice president.

The first trip also involved collecting water samples, but more samples were needed to assess the water supply and plan for a water treatment project.

"An assessment was needed to map the current water sources and test the quality of these sources in regard to the dry season; the last assessment trip contained data obtained during the wet season," Milligan said.

With the data collected on this most recent trip, the group will now make plans for their intended May 2012 return trip, at which time they plan to implement the Covenant Preparatory School's new latrine. They will also work to develop several potential water treatment solutions.

EWB-PSU activities are possible thanks to support from DOW, PJ Dick Trumball, Gannett Fleming, Shell, Lockheed Martin, Boeing and Converse Consultants.

New to Penn State as of 2009, the Engineers Without Borders mission is to "implement sustainable engineering projects in underdeveloped countries to improve the inhabitants' life and to enhance our engineering skills and foster leadership growth." For more information on the group or on how to get involved, email pennstate.ewb@gmail.com or visit the group's website at www.engr.psu.edu/ewb.

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Last Updated February 09, 2012